07 September 2001

New church schools 'must benefit whole community'

The Methodist Church has welcomed Government plans to create more church schools, but stressed new schools must benefit the whole community in which they are built. The plans, outlined in a new Education White Paper, may lead to new Methodist sponsored schools.

There is support from the Church for plans to boost RE and spiritual development in the classroom, under the White Paper, 'Schools Achieving Success'. But there is also a warning that new efforts to support teachers must be robust enough to attract new teachers into the profession and keep them there.

The Methodist Church's Education Officer, Kathleen Wood, said: "As expected, the White Paper is closely related to the Green Paper, Schools Building on Success, published earlier in the year. The Methodist Church responded to that document and is interested to see the developments there have been since that consultation.

Ms Wood said: "We welcome the opportunity to engage in discussion about a more flexible curriculum for students from 14 to 19 years, and expect to contribute significantly to new ideas about religious education and spiritual and moral development for this age-group, as well as the broader plans to develop ┼ĺEducation with Character┬╣. Methodist Church members and officers have wide experience of the secondary and FE sectors and have been involved in pioneering work in the development of a spirituality dimension in the education of young adults. We believe we have much to offer."

"Large numbers of Methodists exercise their Christian vocation in the teaching profession and in the various supporting roles in schools and colleges. We believe the White Paper proposals which seek new ways to support teachers need to be looked at carefully, and to be made sufficiently robust to contribute to increased recruitment and retention for the profession. Similarly, our experience as a provider of Initial Teacher Training and Continuing Professional Development will command our interest in the proposals for change in these areas."

"A key issue in the White Paper is the proposed increased diversity in the secondary school sector, including more specialist schools and more schools promoted by the churches and other faith groups. The Methodist Church will be seeking to ensure that the highest standards of education are sought in all schools and for all pupils, and that diversity and specialism does not generate exclusivity."

"In its promotion of voluntary schools the Methodist Church is always motivated by its impetus for service to the local community; nothing in the White Paper will change this. We shall continue to look at opportunities for ecumenical co-operation in new church schools on an individual basis; where appropriate, and consistent with the policy of local churches and the Methodist Conference Report of 1997, it is possible that the numbers of Methodist-sponsored schools will increase."

"In any event, the proposed alterations to local admissions arrangements and the governance of schools will be of particular interest to us, and we look forward to exploring the details in the documentation accompanying the White Paper."

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